Italian Treasury buys export agency from state lender, increasing debt, sources say
ROME, March 2 (Reuters) – The Italian Treasury is preparing to acquire the export agency SACE from the state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), a transaction that will add 4.25 billion euros (5 , $ 11 billion) to the country’s public debt, according to two sources in the case told Reuters.
SACE offers guarantees and financial support to Italian exporters. She also works alongside banks to facilitate businesses’ access to credit, a role that has grown since the outbreak of the coronavirus in Italy a year ago.
The Treasury wants to strengthen its grip on the export agency because it fears that it is taking excessive risks by offering guarantees, which could harm public finances, said one of the sources, asking not to be named.
The Treasury supports SACE as a co-insurer, by partially sharing its exposures.
A preliminary deal is expected to be ratified by the CDP board by mid-March, the sources said, adding that the Treasury is preparing a decree detailing the deal.
The decision of new Prime Minister Mario Draghi, former president of the European Central Bank, reverses the divestment made during the 2012 sovereign debt crisis by the technocrat government of Mario Monti, which sold SACE to the CDP for around 6 Billions of Euro’s.
Rome holds one of the largest public debts in the world, totaling 2.6 trillion euros, or 155.6% of national production at the end of last year.
CDP’s liabilities do not count as public debt even though the Treasury controls it at 83%.
The state lender will transfer SACE to the Treasury in return for 4.25 billion euros in sovereign bonds yet to be issued, the sources said.
As part of the transaction, CDP will buy SACE’s 76% stake in the service provider SIMEST, partially owned by a group of Italian banks, for around 230 million euros.
$ 1 = 0.8325 euros Report by Giuseppe Fonte, edited by Gavin Jones